Patsy Cline redux - on the 56th anniversary of her death

patsy(I don't normally do this, my babies, but I'm offering today a post I wrote two years ago,  in commemoration of the death of the one and only Patsy Cline. I was going to write something new for "my girl," but found that this one still resonates. So crank up some Patsy on You Tube and revel in one of the greatest vocalists of all-time!)

The great Patsy Cline left us 54 years ago today, in the crash of a single-engine plane just outside Camden, Tennessee, that also killed her manager (and pilot) Randy Hughes and two other stars of the day, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas.

She was only 30 years old.  And just coming into her own, to real stardom.

As Buddy Holly's similar 1959 death was referred-to in Don McLean's American Pie as "the day the music died," the 1963 deaths of Patsy and friends was that day for thousands of their devastated fans.

Patsy was survived by husband Charlie Dick, their two toddlers, Randy and Julie, and her devoted mother, Hilda Hensley.

Patsy had always had a premonition that she would die young.  She'd survived a serious childhood illness, then, in 1961, a near-fatal car crash. She always said that the third time would be the charm.  And dammit, she was right.

I've been a huge Patsy Cline fan all my life.  To me, in terms of raw talent, she's right up there with Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Striesand, Karen Carpenter.  Incandescent and unforgettable.

Patsy was not only one of the finest vocalists ever to grace a stage, she was a pioneer, an innovator and remains a huge musical influence to this day, to all genres, not just country.

You need only hear her sing to understand why.  Here is one of my favorites, So Wrong (written by Carl Perkins, Mel Tillis and Danny Dill).

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932 (another of my favorites, Tammy Wynette, also was born Virginia - Virginia Wynette Pugh), Patsy rose to fame in the hard-knock 1950's, blazing trails in matters of misogyny, business dealings and musical innovation, and setting major artistic standards in the process.

There was no bullshit when Patsy was around.  Tough and plain-spoken, she had your back, never moreso than in dealing with dishonest promoters.

At the time, it was standard practice for country musicians to be paid only after a performance.  Many promoters were scoundrels who'd simply take the gate and run, leaving performers high and dry after they'd already put on a show.

Patsy was among the first to insist on being paid for gigs in advance, in cash, and thought nothing of taking rogue promoters to task - from the stage, if necessary - telling audiences that while they'd love to continue performing, musicians had families to feed, too.  The shamed promoter would then appear in the wings with payment in full, and the show would go on.

She was secure enough in her own talent to champion newcomers to Nashville, from Loretta Lynn to Dottie West to Brenda Lee.  The Cline, as she called herself, always had time to teach a new gal the ropes, including showing newbies how to handle those horny-handed colleagues who thought female performers little more than sexually-available eye-candy.  Patsy disabused such flagrant disrespect with a sound verbal thrashing, and the occasional knee to the groin.

But in the end, what matters most is her music.  In collaboration with legendary producer Owen Bradley, with songs written by some of the best of the day (Willie Nelson, Harlan Howard, Roger Miller, Hank Cochran), and backed by legends like Floyd Cramer, Hank Garland, Buddy Cramer and the Jordanaires (who also backed Elvis), Patsy brought forth some of the most iconic songs of this or any century.

I leave you with Sweet Dreams (written by Don Gibson), released shortly after Patsy's death.  I defy you to listen to it without getting goosebumps.

Simply.  The.  Best.

P.S.  PBS has a program showcasing Patsy Cline in its American Masters series.  First broadcast in 2017, it still is available for viewing. Check your local PBS station for current availability, or check online.  It's well-worth a watch!



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